The Daily Gamecock

Compared To Career, Bowie's Farewell Album Underwhelming


David Bowie passed quietly on Jan. 10 after his new album, “Blackstar” released on his birthday, Jan. 8.

I love Bowie and, with rave reviews all over the web, I wanted to love his final album. But — and I don’t use this term lightly — I hate it. Don’t get me wrong — Bowie is a legend known for his various musical ‘resurrections’ and numerous pop-hits over the last several decades. And although Bowie can be praised for his unyielding passion to both his art and his fans, the album itself makes apparent Bowie's advanced condition at the time of the album's production.

The titular track, “Blackstar," starts with a catchy mesmeric beat before the quick and steady decline which takes place once Bowie begins singing. Although this decline may have been purposeful, the song’s use of instruments is painful to the ear with un-melodic interludes and a beat which seems to have been ripped straight from the auto-beat function found on most electronic keyboards — a trait the album's final song, “I Can’t Give Everything Away”, shares. At the five minute mark (of a 10 minute song, mind you), Bowie returns to his dramatically lovable jazzy roots for VERY short periods — which he intersperses with stock beats and a dreary melody.

The album itself features the theme of death prominently, which is almost suitable as Bowie’s farewell to his fans and music. Every song starts off wonderfully but makes a quick decent into madness, as if the band started strong and slowly fell off beat — possibly a representation of Bowie’s own ailing health. Often times, it almost sounds like the band is playing random notes on their instruments, like in “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)." This cacophony of irritating sounds creates a jarring effect for the listener. It’s hard to tell if Bowie used this effect purposefully as an allegory for his own impending fate.

That being said, “Lazarus” is the only song on the album I would give a passing grade to, music-wise. The song has a distinct blues quality to it, and makes good use of Bowie’s aged voice and his band’s brass instruments, but starts to fall apart near the end. It’s not great, but it’s not bad.

This album has been lauded for its experimental music. I didn’t know if I’d personally call it experimental, but I would decisively applaud it as the final supernova of an earthly star who blazed as brightly as our own sun. The album grates on the ear and every ounce of Bowie’s illness is felt through his singing, but the tenacity of the man behind the music can be felt in every word. Bowie proved that he was the type of man to persevere through hardship, and this album is a testament to that.

I wanted to love this album, but I personally couldn’t. Yet the more I think of Bowie and his legacy, the less surprised I am by his final album. It feels like the farewell he would have wanted. Despite the potentially allegorical aspects, the music on this album only secures a solid ‘D’ by my standards. But the legend behind this album, his tenacity, his legacy, his bravery in the face of impending doom, his 18-month-long fight with cancer and his effect on every generation for the past 40 years — David Bowie deserves an A+. May he rest in peace.


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